Brand Love: Nisolo

I have been admiring Nisolo for a little while, but recently I got myself a pair of their gorgeous slate grey Oliver Oxfords I'd been eyeing.

I feel like these might be the very shoes I've been waiting for my whole life. The ones that look equally awesome when paired with jeans or a skirt. The ones that beg to be worn with striped socks but look just as good with cropped pants and a bare ankle.
I promise to continue to work on my 'shoefie' game. 

Beyond the oxfords, which (duh) I absolutely love, Nisolo as a brand should also be admired and here's why,
1. All products are made with responsibly sourced leather (always a byproduct of the meat industry)
2. All producers are paid a fair trade wage, receive benefits, and work in a healthy environment
3. 89% of production takes place in Nisolo's own factory (they built it!) in Peru - see healthy enviornment above
Check out more of their awesome story HERE - there is so much MORE to love!

Nisolo's Spring Collection is really beautiful and I have my eye on a couple of things. If you do too, use code RCHTZTT5QL0J to save $25 on a purchase of $100 or more. Linked to a few of my favorites below.  

Meet the Maker: Artisan Food Pantry

Food + Drink + Small Business = three of my favorite topics which is why I decided to add a food pantry to the CP Studio Shop. All the great additions to the CP Gifting line-up are made in the southern USA (almost all in NC) and make unique and welcomed gifts.

There is so much heart behind these businesses and love included in each jar, bag, bottle, box and can that I thought it was about time I share a little bit about the people that make the pantry goods I stock in the studio and online shop. Not only will you be inspired by their stories, I'm sure you'll fall in love with their product too.

Interested in trying a sample of what we offer in our Artisan-made Food Pantry? Grab our sample box HERE!

Hudson & Lee - NC: Hudson & Lee Honey Simple Syrup is the brainchild of Greta McCoy - she worked on her recipe for over two years and after working with food scientists at UNC, she found a way to keep it preservative-free, allowing the honey simple syrup to sit safely for up to two years. Hudson & Lee, named from her sons’ middle names, officially launched in May 2016. This natural, shelf-stable substitute for sugar, honey, or regular simple syrup works wonders in iced tea and lemonade. And for cocktail lovers, impress your guests with one (or several) of Greta and her husband’s recipes, available on Hudson & Lee’s website - personally I think all margaritas should be made with Hudson & Lee!

Slingshot Coffee - NC: Slingshot Coffee Co. was founded by Jenny + Jonathan Bonchak - a husband-wife team of national award-winning baristas with nearly 15 years of coffee-brewing experience - dedicated to building on a foundation of quality, knowledge and innovation. Slingshot Coffee starts with only organic, in-season beans that have been meticulously sourced and roasted and produces the most delicious cold brew coffee we've ever tasted. They also make Cascara 'Tea' which is what we are stocking in the studio and adding to gift boxes. What's Cascara you ask? Cascara is a tea-like drink with a fine, fruity flavor and plenty of caffeine.  Made from the often discarded skin and flesh of the coffee fruit, it’s a tropical, berry fruit that just happens to be coffee. It's not tea — it's 100 percent coffee. But it smells like herbal tea. It's a great cold drink, because it's refreshing, and it's caffeinated. It's kind of like nature's Red Bull. Read more about Cascara HERE

 

Cloister Honey - NC: Cloister Honey started when founder,  Joanne gave her husband, Randall, a hive for a gift. What started as a hobby has turned into a wonderful small business offering some amazing honey creations from Charlotte, NC. We are particularly fond of the Cinnamon Whipped Honey in our house - and customers feel the same because it sold out very fast. I also love the whipped cocoa, bourbon infused and salted varieties!

Merry Cheese Crisps - AL: Merry Cheese Crisps are made in the small company's own facility in Birmingham, AL.   Meredith, the founder of 'Merry', is committed to producing locally, and inclined to believe no one can make them the "Merry Way". A cheese crisp is like a cheese straw, but round and the formula used is based on a family recipe that has been fine tuned for over a decade.  The cheese crisps are light, full of sharp cheddar flavor, and just a slight spicy kick in the finish. I promise it will please even the most ardent 'cheese straw snob'. These are the best I've ever tried and you'll have to try hard not to eat the entire bag in one sitting. 

Sunshine Beverage Co - NC: Sunshine Beverages was founded by Keith Vest and Joe Parrish and operates out of The Variable, an ad agency in Winston-Salem (also founded by the pair).  They say they have created a beverage that is different from its “eXreme” energy drink brethren - some energy drinks have more than 150 mg of caffeine, but Sunshine has just 50 mg, typically less than the caffeine contained in a small cup of coffee. Sunshine's first flavor is was Ginger Berry and its key ingredients are 50 mg of caffeine, electrolytes, Vitamin B-12, ginger-root extract, Stevia for a sweetener and a touch of blackberry for flavor. They've since added Clementine Twist and Blueberry Lemonade flavors to the mix. We love a cold Sunshine on its own but happen to think they make a wonderful cocktail mixer too. 

Videri Chocolate Factory - NC: Videri Chocolate Factory began as the shared dream of three chocolate lovers: Sam, Starr, and Chris. From the moment Sam first sunk his hands into a bag of cocoa beans, he knew he had a love for making delicious gourmet chocolate, and the talent to match. His mission was to turn his passion for handcrafted bean-to-bar chocolate into his profession. Sam’s wife, Starr, and his longtime friend, Chris, came on board to head up the business side of the company, and the three have been having a blast ever since. Now a few years on, the chocolate factory is even more beautiful and delectable than they had dreamt it would be. I love the Videri story and wish everyone could visit their slice of heaven in downtown Raleigh but if you can't, we have you covered by offering a selection of their chocolate bars in CP Gift Boxes and the studio shop. My personal favorite is their dark chocolate bar with sea salt. 

CP Making & Gifting Studio Tour

I am so excited to introduce you to my new studio space in lovely Edenton, NC. Having my own space to work and grow my business is a dream come true and being located on a thriving Main Street in a small town is icing on the cake. Getting the space open before the holiday shopping season was my main goal and to make that happen I had to work my butt off to get the space to reflect the CP Brand. I couldn't have done it without my hardworking husband, my Mom, and some great friends - I'm so grateful for their help! 

B E F O R E :

A F T E R :
G I F T I N G   S T U D I O

A F T E R :
M A K I N G    S T U D I O

To learn more about what's happening at the studio click HERE!
Gorgeous photography by Baxter Miller

The Southern C Summit + Charleston

Just a little over a month ago I had the pleasure of attending The Southern C Summit in the perfect host city, Charleston, SC. The Southern Coterie is a virtual resource for the entrepreneurial south and TSC Summit is the coterie's live event - bringing online content to life and offering attendees an opportunity to network and connect in person.

The three day conference combined educational and inspirational sessions with the best names in Southern business and branding intermingled with phenomenal food, drink and inspiring locales all while fostering a strong sense of community. I decided to kick-off day 1 with a small group session with Leapfrog PR Co. for a crash course on small business PR. Note to self: need to spend WAY more time on PR!

Next I headed to The Mills House to check-in to the very lovely (and pink!) hotel and enjoy a welcome brunch sponsored by Southern Proper (more one them later!) and then off to home base for the rest of TSC Summit, The American Theater and The William Aiken House. Let me just say, when I walked out of the theater for our first break and saw the courtyard tents, my jaw dropped. The tents were beautifully styled and the perfect place to meet new friends while nibbling on southern goodies. 

I loved hearing from all the magazine editors on day 1 including Eddie Ross from Better Homes & Gardens. He is the king of styling and it was so very interesting to learn what goes into creating the beautiful styled rooms that grace the glossy pages.

After day 1 wrapped up, I was happy to attend a bloggers social at Zero George (so very stunning, inside & out!) organized by Erin from Attention to Darling Blog. It was so nice to meet such lovely and gracious women including Paula who was so kind to pose on the amazing Zero George porch for an insta-shot. 

Day 2 kicked off with Mandy Kellogg Rye's (of Waiting on Martha fame) Social Media Strategy presentation. Talk about head spinning goodness. I learned so much in 90 minutes but honestly felt so overwhelmed, I needed to caffeinate and process it all. Good thing King Bean was a sponsor - sort of became addicted to their coffee during the summit. 

Other highlights from day 2 included meeting Eddie Ross and getting my new favorite coffee table book signed + hearing from Brian Hart Hoffman of Hoffman Media and getting a sneak peek of his first book, The Coupe. And probably my favorite part of the day was learning from LIbbie Summers - her session on 'Video Branding on a Dime' was the most helpful and easily implementable advice received. Eye Candy = the video Libbie wrote and produced for Le Creuset!

Sadly, I had to say goodbye to Charleston on day 3 but not before I stopped by Le Creuset for TSC Summit farewell brunch. Yummy eats, a golden Bloody Mary (obsessed!), and another visit with the oh-so-sweet Southern Proper reps where I picked up a few ties for the hubs and fell in love with their women's line - hello, striped + tasseled flats and red chambray shorts! An amazing 3 days for sure, founders Whitney & Cheri are true gems and their love for The Southern Coterie community shined through. Excited to implement all I learned, collaborate with some new friends, and start planning for next year's event!

Oh...did I mention that prior to TSC Summit I spent a few glorious days with my best friends in Charleston?! Yep, seven whole days in one of the best cities I have ever visited. Lucky gal, for sure! Here we are in front of Husk, the start of our eating adventures. If you ever find yourself in Charleston for a girls weekend, I highly recommend everything we came in contact with during our short stay...all linked below for your planning pleasure!

Meet the Maker: Jordan Grace Owens

Oh hey, major fan girl over here. Meet artist & illustrator, Jordan...everything she creates is perfectly simple while still being a statement maker. Jordan's work includes ink drawings of women and limbs - when I came across her leggy tote, I knew it needed to be paired with one my necklaces - such a fun gift. And do yourself a favor and check out her custom paper dolls. Jordan was very kind to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions so you can get to know her business a little better. 

E: In what city/town do you create your products? 
J: I work out of my home in Durham, North Carolina. 

E: How does your location inspire your work?
J: Durham is a growing city in a growing region, so it feels like there are always new creative people moving to town and bringing new creative energy to the community. It’s inspiring to be a part of that upswell. And we're only about a thirty minute drive to Raleigh or Chapel Hill, so there’s always something exciting to eat, see, or do nearby. 

E: When and why did you initially start your own business?
J: Six years ago I was working as a graphic designer and making art in my spare time, when I started offering custom paper dolls through my Etsy shop. Those became a big hit and before long, I was burning the candle at both ends. That’s when I decided to let my day job go to focus on illustrations full-time. 

E: What is your favorite thing about owning your own business?
J: There’s nothing better than managing the direction of your work — which projects you want to take, which goals you want to accomplish — it’s really creatively fulfilling. And you can’t beat the flexibility of making your own hours. 

E: What is the biggest challenge of owning your own business?
J: As a one-woman operation, I’m in charge of everything. A lot of my work days are spent on things like managing schedules or organizing financials — not the most inspiring tasks. When you work from home (like I do), I can be a challenge to turn the work day off at the end of the day.   

E: We love growing our creative network! Can you share a few of your favorite handmade/artisan shops?
J: We have some wonderful handmade/artisan shops worth checking out here in the Triangle. I’m a fan of Indio and Everyday Magic in Durham, and Gather and Ramble Supply Co. in Raleigh. I have some lovely stockists further out in NC that I can recommend, including Kleur Shop in Winston-Salem and Horse & Hero in Asheville.

Thanks, Jordan!  I am very excited to be stocking a small selection of Jordan's work including the leggy tote and girl art prints - both can be found in several gift boxes

Meet the Maker: Paper Sushi

I have this thing with stamps. I guess you could call me a collector. And hand-lettering...I am a sucker for it too. Jen, the fun creative behind Paper Sushi, combines two of my favorite things to create the most perfect desk accessories. I love that this Mama does it all herself - Jen is the sole designer for Paper Sushi and she + her hubs cut and engrave everything in house. It was so nice of Jen to take time out of her busy schedule so we can all get to know Paper Sushi a little better.  

E: In what city/town do you create your products? 
J: Lovely Portland, Oregon!

E: How does your location inspire your work and why do you love living & working there?
J: Portland has such a wonderful community of makers that inspiration is everywhere!  We love our small businesses here, too, and that means I can always find somebody local to collaborate with.  I print everything at a local, super green print house and get to treat myself to the delicious banh mi next door whenever I pick up a job.  (Amazing food is another one of my favorite things about Portland!) 

E: Why did you initially start your own business?
J: We were living in Germany and my German was terrible!  That meant I had to develop my own business opportunities and I found the perfect home for my ideas on Etsy.  I have been thrilled every step of the way as this business has grown and changed and become such a part of who I am.

E: What is the best thing about owning your own business?
J: I absolutely love being the captain of my own destiny.  I love that if I am bursting with ideas and working my hardest, I get to channel that in whatever way I see fit, and I get to reap the benefits of all of it!

E: What is the biggest challenge of owning your own business?
J: Sometimes adulting is hard.  And, owning your own business can feel like next level adulting.  You have to make all the decisions and sometimes they’re not the right ones.  But, every stumble is another opportunity to grow!

E: We love growing our creative network! Can you share a few of your favorite handmade shops? 
J: Beetle Ink Co is one of my favorite local makers!  I run her stamps and acrylic pins, and every new illustration she brings is a joy to see!  Little Canoe brings my favorite outdoor scenes to life on fun paper goods.  And, Quill & Fox and Worthwhile Paper are more of my favorite paper ladies!

Thanks so much, Jen! We are so excited to stock a selection of Jen's work in our online shop - the very perfect addition to our curated gift boxes!

Meet the Maker: Grey Moggie

I was first introduced to Grey Moggie letterpress cards a few years ago when I attended my very favorite art show, Crafty Bastards, in DC. Melanie, the witty and oh-so-talented creative behind the brand, writes the most clever and spot-on messages and the look & feel of her letterpress work is super special. As luck would have it, I got to meet Melanie this past year when I, too, was a vendor at CB. I paired a few of her cards with our clipboard frames in my booth and knew I wanted to carry her work as soon a possible in the CP e-shop. Melanie was very kind to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions so you can get to know Grey Moggie a little better. 

E: In what city/town do you create your products? 
M: We print all of our letterpress greeting cards, coasters, and small prints at our Northeast DC warehouse studio. The warehouse is filled with other local artists and makers and has the best creative energy. There's a coffee roaster and two floral design studios so it always smells amazing. And it's just a few minutes from home for me. 

E: How does living in Washington DC inspire your work?
M: I love the sense of possibility that comes from living in a city even though it feels as friendly as a small town most of the time. My urban environment really inspires my work. The sense of community you feel when you run into friends and neighbors at a coffee shop, farmers market, craft fair, playground, or new restaurant, that's the feeling I hope to convey in my work. And of course we love DC! We have a whole line of cards, coasters, and prints called "Local Love" featuring our love for DC neighborhoods and quirks. It even has funny cards about DC bus lines. 

E: When and why did you initially start your own business?
M: It was sort of by accident. I started letterpress printing as a hobby when I needed a creative outlet during law school. When my daughter was born a few years later, I quit my 9-5 job to be at home with her. I slowly got back into letterpress printing, teaching at a local art center on the weekends and printing in the evenings after my daughter was asleep. Then I started selling my cards at Eastern Market on the weekends. I'd post new cards on Instagram from the market and a few shops got in touch about carrying my cards. I gave myself a crash course in selling wholesale to fill those first few orders. I remember asking myself "what the heck is a line sheet???" and then the next day creating a line sheet. I signed up for Trade Show Bootcamp and did my first trade show, The National Stationery Show, in 2013. 

E: What is the best thing about owning your own business?
M: I love making the rules for my business, particularly in balancing work and family life. When my daughter was really young, I was able to spend weekdays with her and grow my business at night and on the weekends. Now that she's in school, we have a much more traditional schedule, but it's one that we've chosen and that can be very empowering. I also love that I get to wear a million different hats. I never get bored because I'm doing something different - from designing new product to printing it, shooting and editing photos, interacting with customers and clients, sourcing new supplies and vendors - every day. 

E: What is the biggest challenge of owning your own business?
M: Ha! The work life balance is also the worst thing about owing my own business. The lines between work and home can become really blurred and it's important to set boundaries all around. That has been really hard for me, but I'm learning and improving all the time. And wearing different hats can be good and bad, too! Some days I really want to print or design, but what I really need to do is send invoices and order paper.  

E: We love growing our creative network! Can you share a few of your favorite handmade shops? 
M: Just a few?? I love everything Katie at Stitch & Rivet is doing. Priya Means Love in Baltimore makes the best natural beauty products. I've been eyeing Mallory Shelter's jewelry since we were booth neighbors at the DC MEET Market a few years ago. I share my workspace with another printer, Sarah Hanks from Fancy Seeing You Here, and I love her screenprinted Gee Whiskers cards featuring her outlaw cat, Jesse James. And fellow DC mama, Emily Biskey from Penny & Paul, makes the warmest, coziest, most stylish knit caps.

Thanks, Melanie!  I am SO excited to now carry a small selection of Grey Moggie cards to include with gift boxes and pair with clipboard frames. And I know you are going to love giving her fun cards as much as I do. 

Thrive Creatives Retreat

If you follow @conflictedpixie on the insta, you know I spent this past weekend at the Thrive Creatives Retreat in Bluemont, VA - inside my dream home, Retreat at Cool Spring. 8 other creative lady bosses and I were treated to inspired workshops, amazing meals, and girly relaxation by the dream team of Alyssa, Lauren, Rachel, and Rebecca - women I've admired from afar but now am so very happy to call friends. 

The retreat kicked off a little early due to Winter Storm Jonas with a lovely winter soup - Rebecca's go-to recipe and homemade bread. And although we had all started to get to know each other, the cheeseboard and wine at our official 'meet and greet' was a welcome centerpiece to our introductions. We were a group of photographers, handmade business owners, event planners, stylists, dreamers, and doers. As you can imagine, dinner that evening was filled with lively conversation and a delicious risotto prepared by our chef for the weekend, Alyssa's incredible mama. 

We were up bright and early on Saturday morning to enjoy a delicious breakfast (dreaming of the savory scones from Buttercream Bakeshop) and Madcap coffee brewed in a Chemex pot - the best ever!  After being gifted a Day Designer and Appointed Co. Notebook, Lauren and Char (another amazing presenter) walked us through a creative business workshop. We covered finance, marketing, taxes, spreadsheets, motivations all before we broke for lunch knowing we would need to return to some topics later in the weekend. 

After lunch, Alyssa and Rebecca led us through a hands-on styling workshop where we got to play with props to create a visual story. I brought along my new necklace design and some raw materials and I really enjoyed styling, shooting, evaluating, re-styling, re-shooting and ultimately admiring the finished image. Special thanks to Rachel (our in-house photog for the weekend) for her expertise and hand modeling skills! After another amazing dinner, we all gathered in the great room (with a caramel white russian!) to learn how to arm knit. Our handmade chunky scarfs proved a perfect cozy accessory for the chilly weekend. 

Brunch on Sunday morning was incredible...a girl could really get used to being spoiled like this. But there was more work to be done. I really enjoyed the time we spent in small groups - I learned a lot from Rebecca on blogger collaborations and Alyssa gave me a crash course on SLR photography. I think I gained a bit of confidence and won't shy away from using the 'big camera' this year. With our heads spinning over all things business, we took a break to meet Laura Hooper via Skype for an introduction to calligraphy. I became slightly obsessed with the spinach balls (I promise to get the recipe and share!) we had for dinner on Sunday evening and I couldn't think of a better way to end the day than a hot chocolate + popcorn bar and Bridesmaids viewing party. 

Monday was supposed to be our final day but we knew we weren't going anywhere because the road out was still under 3 feet of snow. So we had a leisurely day working and chatting. Our gracious hosts even snapped some headshots for the group - I opted for the underrated chin/necklace shot! Man, we sure got a lot of snow in Bluemont. By Tuesday morning, we were all ready to dig ourselves out so we headed to the parking lot and began the process. After a few hours of shoveling, an angel (with a plow on his four wheeler) appeared and helped get our cars out of the yet-to-be plowed parking lot.

The term 'self-care' is being used a lot lately and for me, this retreat defined it. I AM my business and it will not succeed unless I invest in the care of it. I am so grateful that I was included with this group of women and forever thankful for their shared knowledge and wisdom. I can't wait for the reunion!  

Behind the Scenes || 07

Happy 2016! The past couple of months have been a whirlwind. When you are a small business owner and the end of the year is filled with controlled chaos, you can be thankful for the publicity, orders, amazing customers, and collaborations.

I am so happy with the growing list of makers we are working with to stock the very best handmade goods in our online shop. Look for more goods to start arriving in early spring and a new offering of curated boxes for all your gift giving needs.

I am so grateful for all the support you showed me and my little business during the gift giving season. I can genuinely say I loved packaging each and every box before sending them around the county! I also loved being able to deliver orders with my girls in our bike. Thankful to live in such a great neighborhood within a very supportive community...who love to shop small!

Speaking of support, we were excited to be included a local paper's holiday shopping guide and an independent hardware store's handmade holiday market. I am looking forward to doing more with Logan Hardware in 2016 - they certainly have a small business model I want to emulate. 

And just like that, a new year is here. January is always the perfect time to think and plan which is why I am heading to a creative retreat near the end of the month. In addition to learning a whole lot from some pretty talented ladies, I am excited to spend some quality solo time thoughtfully planning the year ahead. In the Spring I'll be attending my first conference as a small business owner in Charleston, SC! And stay tuned for details regarding my latest focus, Studio Pixie - a modern crafting experience! 

Happy Holidays!

I love this time of year - a time for reflection and breathing. 2015 was such a great learning experience for me both personally and professionally. I can't wait to bring everything I've learned to 2016 to grow Conflicted Pixie and make some changes for the better. Wishing you the happiest of holidays and all the best in the new year...from my family to yours.

Our card photo was taken at Tell Chronicles - The Memory Shack in Arlington, VA during a fun drop-in session.

My dress - Clad and Cloth
Blake's dress - Zara
Parker's dress - Zara (similar)